Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse: “Our experience as survivors of the Tutsi genocide is less unspeakable than inaudible”

The interview is over, Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse is already getting up

Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse: “Our experience as survivors of the Tutsi genocide is less unspeakable than inaudible”

The interview is over, Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse is already getting up. She is preparing to go to Montparnasse station to return to Bordeaux with her husband and their two children. We then remember that her new book, Le Convoi, is dedicated to these boys aged 9 and 15, and we think back to the passage where the author confides a mania typical of those who have escaped the worst: every month of April, the month which saw the start of the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, she mechanically made a list of friends and neighbors with whom she could hide her children, the day that... "It's true," she explains. laughing. Besides, I want my boys to be well raised, and to eat everything, so they can be welcomed by any family! »

When she was 15, Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse herself found refuge with a family near Lille. The teenager had just been evacuated from Butare, the Rwandan town where she grew up, thanks to a convoy set up by the Swiss humanitarian organization Terre des hommes. The book she published on January 10, almost thirty years later, recounts this rescue. Or rather the investigation carried out by the writer to find images and share them with the children: those of yesterday, who like her were saved from death on June 18, 1994; and those of today, starting with his own.

To bear witness is to build a connection, says the philosopher Georges Didi-Huberman, whom Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse quotes in her text. The author notes that her decision to undertake this investigation coincided with her first pregnancy. Under his pen, the link between memory and transmission is solid. Still, we are quickly struck by the imbalance between descent and ancestry: here, the writer talks relatively little about her parents, in particular keeping quiet about their trajectory and their social status. It is all the more surprising since his mother was alongside him in the saving convoy, and is still alive. While we are surprised by this paradox, Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse cuts it short: “My mother does not want to be in the light, she never wanted it, I respect her choice. » As for the father, he is quickly eclipsed: “I had no intention of talking about him. He played no role. Or only that of the absent. »

“Miscegenation, my books only talk about that”

Reading this book where the missing image proves to be decisive, and where what is not said directs the story, we nevertheless understand that this great absentee did not count for nothing: the author owes him her life and survival. Because, before being taken care of by humanitarian workers, the young woman had almost been murdered by the Hutu. If they spared her, it was because her light skin allowed her to pass as the daughter of a Frenchman, which made her, in the eyes of the killers, the citizen of an allied nation.